Top 10 stories from the fall season
Monday, January 4, 2010
Lance and Asher discuss the best of the best from the men's fall season.
With the fall golf season in the books, here’s a look back at 10 of the most notable stories from men’s college golf.
Florida turns heads
Heading into the 2009-10 season, Florida was not a team many were mentioning as a NCAA title contender. Golfweek tabbed the Gators as No. 18 in the preseason poll. However, the Gators are now on the radar. Buddy Alexander’s squad closed the fall season No. 3 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings.
It still might be a bit premature to toss the Gators into the upper class. Though they played just three events, their results produced a lot of promise.
Opening the season at the Olympia Fields Illini Invitational – the second-best event in the fall – Florida finished sixth, just eight shots behind winner Arizona State. Florida followed with a T-3 at the Gary Koch and an impressive runner-up finish at the Isleworth Collegiate Invitational.
Peter Uihlein ranked No. 1
Last year there was a lot of talk surrounding Oklahoma State freshman Peter Uihlein, but the two-time AJGA Rolex Junior Player of the Year played just one event during the fall season. Just prior to the Big 12 Championship, Uihlein won the Gaillardia Intercollegiate – a Division II event – while playing as an individual, then traveled with the Cowboys on the road for the final three events of the year, finishing in the top 20 each times and earning Golfweek Second Team All-American honors.
Now a sophomore, Uihlein kept the momentum going and has surfaced as the top player in college golf. He won twice in the fall – at the Ping/Golfweek Preview and the Gifford Collegiate at CordeValle – and finished with a scoring average of 70.58 in four events. He also won the Dixie Amateur in December.
Dustin Garza’s winning ways
Wichita State senior Dustin Garza dominated his competition this fall, winning four of six individual starts. Garza had a 417-21-5 head-to-head record and finished the fall No. 13 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings. Garza may have played the 494th-ranked schedule in the country, but he proved he could compete against the nation’s best at the Western Refining All-America Classic.
Competing against a field comprised of last year’s All-Americans, Garza held the 18- and 36-hole lead, and was one shot ahead until a double bogey on his final hole left him one shot out of a playoff between Alabama’s Hunter Hamrick and Oklahoma State’s Morgan Hoffmann.
Strong fall season for the ‘Noles
Florida State started its season with a victory at the Golfweek Conference Challenge, then kept rolling through the fall, finishing the season No. 5 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings. The ‘Noles were ranked 25th in Golfweek’s preseason poll.
FSU also won the Gary Koch Intercollegiate, finished fifth at the prestigious Olympia Fields Intercollegiate and closed the fall with a T-7 at the Brickyard Intercollegiate.
Sophomore Brooks Koepka, last year’s ACC frosh of the year, finished the fall ranked 11th in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings after failing to qualify for Florida State’s first event of the year. Senior Seath Lauer was 19th, an improvement of 355 spots from last season. Drew Kittleson, the 2008 U.S. Amateur runner-up, tied for first at the Golfweek Conference Challenge.
Florida State also got help from its freshmen, who delivered top 10s in each of the Seminoles’ victories. Doug Letson tied for ninth at the Conference Challenge, while Michael Hebert tied for 10th at the Koch.
Another strong Pac-10 performer
The Pac-10 proved to be the best conference in the fall, with six teams finishing in the top 20 of the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings. No one was surprised to see Stanford (No. 2), Arizona State (No. 7), Washington (No. 8), UCLA (No. 13) and USC (No. 16) ranked where they were. The same can’t be said for Oregon State.
The Beavers finished the fall ranked 17th in the country, an improvement of 51 spots over last season. They won their own Giustina Memorial Classic, tied for first at the Bank of Tennessee Intercollegiate, finished fourth at the MacKenzie and second at the St. Mary’s Invitational.
Diego Velasquez was one of the main reasons for the Beavers’ success. The senior finished the fall ranked fourth in the country, losing to just five players in four events. Velasquez won the Bank of Tennessee Intercollegiate by seven shots, finished second at St. Mary’s and third at the Giustina and Mackenzie.
Redshirt senior Mike Barry was the Beavers’ second-best player, finishing the fall ranked 107th.
Another TCU team makes national noise
While the TCU football team was working its way to an undefeated season and hoping to play for a national title, the Horned Frog golfers were turning heads as well.
Bill Montigel’s squad played just three times, but scored a big victory at The Prestige at PGA West finishing at 14-under par for the tournament – the only team in red numbers. Led by freshman Daniel Jennevret’s individual victory, TCU was 16 shots clear of runner-up Stanford.
TCU tied for seventh at the Ping/Golfweek Preview and seventh at the Isleworth Collegiate Invitational.
Blue Raiders: Not a one-hit wonder
Middle Tennessee State first received national attention when it made the cut at the 2008 NCAA Championship. The Blue Raiders were surprise winners of the Callaway Match Play last year, and have kept it going this season. MTSU finished the fall No. 27 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings.
The Blue Raiders beat No. 11 South Carolina in a playoff at the Mason Rudolph Intercollegiate, and won the Scenic City Invitational, where the Blue Raiders’ Kent Bulle and Hunter Green shared medalist honors with Garza.
It has been 12 years since a Rice golf team has played in the postseason. That streak is likely to be stopped this year. The Owls finished the fall season No. 46 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings.
Rice opened the season with a victory at the UTA Waterchase Invitational and went on to record three more top-5 finishes in five starts.
A big reason for Rice’s success has been the play of freshman Jade Scott. The Daingerfield, Texas, native placed inside the top 10 in four of five tournaments including a win at the David Toms Intercollegiate.
“It was a really fun fall, especially starting out the year with the win at UT Arlington,” fifth-year coach Drew Scott said. “The attitude, focus and expectations have definitely increased with each tournament, so the spring should be even more exciting since the guys feel that they can compete for a win at each event.”
The .500 Rule
Could that pesky .500 Rule become a big hurdle this spring for teams hoping to participate in the postseason?
Last year was the second season for the once controversial rule that requires a team to finish with at least .500 head-to-head won-loss winning percentage. Only Auburn to fell victim to the rule in 2008-09. In 2007-08, the .500 Rule clipped four teams - Arizona, Vanderbilt, Minnesota and Northwestern - out of the postseason.
However, after the fall season five teams ranked inside the top 70 sit below .500 and two more are right on the number. If this continues into the spring season, this could once again be a topic that gets talked about a bit more.
Teams on the .500 bubble: East Tennessee State (26-36-2), Auburn (28-35-0), Mississippi (31-35-2), UCF (25-32-1), Northwestern (33-35-0), Clemson (19-19-1) and Wake Forest (25-25-2)
Where is match play?
Last year the NCAA Championship went away from 72 holes of stroke play to determine the national champion, to having match play be the deciding factor. Many speculated that we would see an increase in the number of match play events being played during the regular season, but that was not the case this fall.
Other than a few dual matches where match play was used, the only significant match play tournament contested was with the Big East teams. While there are more scheduled for the spring season it is doubtful match play will ever grow.
Maybe Arkansas’ Andrew Landry, a senior on last year’s runner-up squad, was spot on when talking about match play at the championship a year ago.
“I wouldn’t want to do this all of the time,” he said.